The Englishwoman in America

Read by Sibella Denton

(4.4 stars; 50 reviews)

Isabella Bird travels abroad in Canada and the United States in the 1850s. As an Englishwoman and a lone female, she travels as far as Chicago, Prince Edward Island, and Cincinatti. Her observations on the trials and tribulations of the journeys are astute, if formed by her place and time in history. Adventures with pickpockets, omnibuses, cholera, and rat invested hotels deter her not. (Sibella Denton) (0 hr 11 min)


Chapter 01 19:53 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 02 35:32 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 03 36:48 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 04 49:50 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 05 21:36 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 06 18:06 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 07 27:24 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 08 40:50 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 09 35:01 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 10 54:01 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 11 36:52 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 12 57:28 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 13 29:40 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 14 42:51 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 15 19:29 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 16 1:04:30 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 17 46:17 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 18 43:50 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 19 28:25 Read by Sibella Denton
Chapter 20 23:27 Read by Sibella Denton


An Absorbing Read

(3 stars)

The book is a 19th-century travelogue covering the young author's summertime travels in the mid-1850s through the eastern Canadian Maritime provinces (excepting Newfoundland) and parts of what are, in the present day, the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. She also visited New England in the USA and travelled west by train as far as Cincinnati, Ohio, then swinging north to Detroit and thence back into a Canada that was, in that period, still a colony of Britain. The nascent, but already solid City of Toronto held, at the time, only a few tens of thousands of residents! Well-educated, astute, fearless and with an ability to synthesize - to sift out chaff from what she sees around her and pick out the valuable nuggets - she reports a great many interesting vignettes within her purview that bring to life some of the aspects of that period. Regrettably certain lacunae mar the report's excellence. At the start of her visit in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, she fails to record the fact of "Le Grand Dérangement" (The Great Upheaval) of 1755. At that date, the British rounded up and expelled to the four corners of the earth the owners of the land who were French-speaking Acadians, an industrious agrarian folk. These, and their descendants, are deprived forever of the right to reclaim what had been theirs. The epic poem "Evangeline" by Longfellow, published in 1847, commemorates this tragedy. Since the author describes in her book her cordial meeting with this very poet in Boston, at a date only a few years after the poem's publication, it seems odd indeed that she passes Longfellow's trademark work, and the barbaric events it deplores, under a veil of dead silence. Her account falls short yet again in still another aspect. She seems not to have learned much, if anything, about the French/English divide between Upper and Lower Canada that manifests itself even unto the present day. She shows no empathy but rather a disdain for a sector of the Canadian population that was French-speaking and possessed "alien" customs quite different than her own; a sector that had, moreover, been seething under such exploitation under their British conquerors that there had been armed insurrection some 15 years earlier - a fact she ignores. When visiting Montreal she carries a letter of introduction to the "Bishop of Montreal" who turns out to be, we learn only by inference, an Anglican bishop, not a Catholic (French-Canadian) one from the majority of the population, who consequently could only have spoken for (and introduced her to) a tiny sector of the Chrisitan flock in that city. That made for great fun but it could hardly have been conducive to penetrating insights. The same blinkered stance leading to truncated outcome continues on to Quebec City, where she partakes of the dizzying social whirl but only in the company of the English winners of the battle between Generals Wolfe (English) and Montcalm (French). Yet Quebec City was then, and is now still, the fortress of French-Canadian culture! She pridefully reports on an obelisk erected to Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham near the Citadel on which were written the words "Here died Wolfe victorious" but, ungallantly, utters not a word about the defeated Montcalm who had been also a general of distinction. Perhaps, in her defence, one may conclude that she did not speak French, and would have found it impossible communicating with this important sector of the population in order to get a sense of its pulse. But regrettably, she contents herself instead with turning up her nose at the incomprehensible "patois" that she heard all around her - the usual attempt to slough off linguistic ignorance. Shades of an American in Vietnam! In counterpoint, her detailed overview of the City of New York, and also that of Boston, presented in Chapters 16 and 17, really carries the day for me and puts her talents in high relief. This is a tour-de-force that includes a sympathetic focus on positive but rarely-mentioned traits of American culture of that era and it certainly merits to be remarked upon and preserved. I must also compliment the excellent reader, Sibella Denton, for rendering the book so well with her pleasantly mellifluous voice. Even in some of the chapters where the cadence of her reading seemed to speed up, possibly due to the sheer length of the material at hand, I found this did not diminish one's interest in any way. How extraordinarily well done. Her reading complements perfectly this travelogue and I strongly recommend it.

The Englishwoman In America

(4 stars)

I love Ms Dentons' readings and seek them out, and she does Isabella Bird justice - one tiny quibble is the mispronouncing of certain words ie kways for quays ( should sound as keys) or is-lets for islets (should sound as eye-lets) and others that really grate on our ears,in an otherwise flawless reading. Not wishing to be overly pedantic though, because I would enjoy Ms Dentons' reading of her shopping list. Also can't help wondering if it would sound more authentic in an English voice. The book itself is a lovely opinionated progress through a rambunctious new nation, Miss Bird was a formidable person, her courage and determination shine through, and also her grasp of facts and figures. Highly recommended for a step back into history that is as fresh now as when it was written.

Terrific Travelogue!!

(5 stars)

This is an amazing first hand account of travels in 19th century America and Canada. I learned so many new things--- as if I were right there. The fear of getting cholera was fascinating to find out about as was the author's interaction with Native Canadians in their wigwams. Very well read too. Don't miss this one!

(4 stars)

It's an interesting look into a young North America of the past. But equally as much it's an interesting look into the thoughts, beliefs and prejudices of a sheltered Victorian upper class woman of the mid 19th century.

Well Read Travelog

(4.5 stars)

A clear writing style and impressions of the growing population of the US and Canada just prior to our Civil War. I knew there was dislike and discrimination toward the Irish, and Catholics in the States. Her description of both groups displayed it more clearly than any text. But she was writing from her time, and if we read it now with a bit of wincing, guess that means our culture has moved past many of the many differences presented here. Incorperating such diverse communities without an overarching belief and identification as "American" would never have been possible. I was surprised to hear multiple descriptions of Mexicans in this region, though settlements by Catholic Spanish in 1400's included coastal Florida along with California and the Santa Fe Trail. Altogether, this really felt as adventurous in stepping back in time and seeing the US and Canada in their early years.

Wonderful Book

(4 stars)

The author gives a intriguing account of her travels. I was interested in the people she met and the places she found herself experiencing. She has some close calls in dangerous weather at sea as well. The reader is one of my favorites.

Interesting History

(5 stars)

I am a fan of Miss Bird’s writing so it gives pleasure to find this book well read.

(3 stars)

this reader is one of my favorites. this author is also a favorite but this book isnt her best